The Most Overrated Classics

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Reuben 92
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The Most Overrated Classics

Post by Reuben 92 » 26 Aug 2017, 13:17

Have you ever been forced to read a book for school and were left wondering 'why are they making us read this???' Or have you ever stumbled across a classic that has left you reeling with just how good it was?

Classics, of course, are always classics for a reason, and I don't intend to claim that any of the below books should be otherwise. They are all, in their ways, important books that have brought pleasure to many.

Below is my (highly personal!) list of top 5 most OVER- and UNDER- rated literary classics that I've read to date. These are ones that left me either disappointed and underwhelmed, or excited and overwhelmed...

Let me know if you agree or disagree!


OVERRATED:

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I didn't find this funny, except at rare moments, and I thought it was rambling, over-long and poorly structured.
2. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. I can see its appeal to teens, with its rebellious undercurrent and angst-ridden anti-hero, but even as a teen I was unimpressed by Holden's repetitive dislikes and vernacular phrases.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. One of the most important books of the 20th C, without a doubt, but I found it hard to get through. I just didn't find the style exciting and I'm not a fan of courtroom scenes...
4. Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Having read any number of essays about it, and picking it apart scene by scene, I still found very little to celebrate. It didn't engage my imagination or emotions.
5. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Another revered author who, I think, is set on too high a pedestal. Though I do enjoy much of Dickens' writing, this is one of my least favourite of his novels - far too sentimental for my taste!


UNDERRATED:

1. Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. I enjoy Marlowe more than Shakespeare, heresy though that may be... A spine-tingling exploration of a classic legend, with enough ambiguity to keep you rereading for years.
2. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. My introduction to this author which sent me on a pilgrimage to read all 40+ of his novels. A gripping, complex plot; a warm, engaging style; a wealth of information on nineteenth-century life.
3. Perfume by Patrick Süskind. This book sucked me in so quickly and didn't let me go until the final page. Such a unique premise and such a unique treatment - a truly one-of-a-kind story.
4. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy. A most beautiful, heart-wrenching exploration of nature and love. My personal favourite of Hardy's novels. Not for those who prefer a happy ending, but thankfully I don't...
5. A Little Life by Hanye Yanagihara. Can you qualify such a recent book as a classic? I suppose this is more like a prediction. It is rare for a contemporary book to effect me so deeply. A gut-wrenching, unputdownable story written in hypnotic prose. Again, not for the faint of heart but with a protagonist who will stay with you strongly for - well, at least a year!
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Post by CatInTheHat » 26 Aug 2017, 15:04

In my opinion, "To Kill a Mockingbird" is not overrated. It's not supposed to be easy to get through. It is intended to make you think, in ways that aren't easy, about the problems in society.
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Post by Reuben 92 » 26 Aug 2017, 15:26

Yes, I agree, that's why I was careful to qualify that it was an important novel. It's not so much a question of its significance as its writing style or the enjoyment/engagement factor for me. I understand why it is a key book to read (and I am glad that I have!) but am baffled when people say they enjoyed it thoroughly. But I knew it would be a controversial one to include in my list!
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Post by tamdlyte » 27 Aug 2017, 19:37

Ugh... the classics... I am not a big fan of "the classics"... I think, if I had been a "school" reader, (only reading books that were assigned in school) and not a "for pleasure" reader, like I was, then I would hate reading! I am a voracious reader but could barely stomach any of "the classics." I don't know. They were just not my thing. They all seemed so very very boring to me. Good thing I knew the difference before I was turned off to reading anything all! LOL

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Post by Reuben 92 » 28 Aug 2017, 03:16

I'm glad to hear you're a voracious reader! I often think those who set the curriculum should pick more engaging texts, because I have so many friends who have been put off reading full stop because of being bored by books in school, which is sad.
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Post by tamdlyte » 28 Aug 2017, 08:40

My parents were readers so that did more for my reading voracity than school (which was an appetite suppressant! LOL) I was never read to as a child, you know, the whole "reading before bedtime" thing, but I always saw THEM reading... All. The. Time. So I totally emulated them. So we really are a product of our parents, eh? LOL Oh, and they never read the classics! LOL

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Post by Reuben 92 » 28 Aug 2017, 10:23

Ah brilliant! Mine were not but they always encouraged my reading habit and I hope to pass that on some day.
"Every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what...he would perhaps never have perceived in himself."
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Post by maiamalanee » 29 Aug 2017, 12:38

Classics as required reading have a purpose. Besides the classic, "read this and we'll discuss it next week," that we've all been through in high school, I've taken a lot of literature classes that really make you think about the books in different ways. For me, The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, and Pride and Prejudice are the most overrated classics.

I can name a number of classics that I consider underrated (these might not even be considered classics, but I think of them as such):
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (this is my father's favorite book)
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
anything by Alexandre Dumas
anything by Dashiell Hammett
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Post by Reuben 92 » 29 Aug 2017, 13:03

Thanks for replying! It's funny how subjective a classic's worth can be - the three you mention as overrated are ones I value highly! However, your recommendation of The Once and Future King is timely: I have a lovely edition waiting on my shelf, so I will bump it up the to be read list. And I'm so excited to hear you mention Dumas. I agree 100% that anything he writes is gold (I might start an author topic thread).
"Every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what...he would perhaps never have perceived in himself."
Proust
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Post by egyptologyone » 01 Sep 2017, 02:29

This books full of wisdom and good thinking may be historic or selfs tests say about
Struggles and many wars it is very interesting books i like it very much.

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Post by Dashkova » 02 Sep 2017, 15:45

tamdlyte wrote:Ugh... the classics... I am not a big fan of "the classics"... I think, if I had been a "school" reader, (only reading books that were assigned in school) and not a "for pleasure" reader, like I was, then I would hate reading! I am a voracious reader but could barely stomach any of "the classics." I don't know. They were just not my thing. They all seemed so very very boring to me. Good thing I knew the difference before I was turned off to reading anything all! LOL
Same here, I think it's just that the subject matter in a book from 1855 isn't going to be as groundbreaking and interesting now in the 21st century as it was in its time(at least not to a lot of people anyway). I made a pact with myself the other day that I'm not ordering any books that were written before like 1920 from here on out.

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Post by Reuben 92 » 02 Sep 2017, 16:05

I love books from the 19th century, but I can understand their lack of appeal to many readers today: a lot of the topics and assumptions are dated. The important thing is finding books you like, ones that are entertaining and stimulating, and if you know what you like there's no point in wasting your time on things you don't! Thanks for the reply
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Post by Zupanatural » 02 Sep 2017, 17:08

maiamalanee wrote:Classics as required reading have a purpose. Besides the classic, "read this and we'll discuss it next week," that we've all been through in high school, I've taken a lot of literature classes that really make you think about the books in different ways. For me, The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, and Pride and Prejudice are the most overrated classics.
Yes and yes, I never got the hype around either of these two. Ok, they give good insight into the societies with which they deal but there is very little to get excited about in terms of plot or style. I would also add Dracula to the overrated list- Bram Stoker conceived a great story & then proceeded to make a hash of the actual narration of it. Obviously just my opinion though ;)

As for underrated, I think the genius of Maupassant & Wilkie Collins is largely lost on 21st century readers. Ok, they were dealing with French & British society in the mid-19th so that's kind of understandable but both have an incredible ability to tell stories (often witty) which compel from start to finish.
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Post by Reuben 92 » 02 Sep 2017, 17:19

I couldn't agree with you more about Dracula - it was a great disappointment for such a brilliant premise. And I am a fan of Maupassant and Wilkie Collins both. I agree with you on their readability. I remember being GLUED to The Woman in White and I want to read it again soon. Thanks for the comment!
"Every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what...he would perhaps never have perceived in himself."
Proust
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Post by Zupanatural » 03 Sep 2017, 12:44

Reuben 92 wrote:I couldn't agree with you more about Dracula - it was a great disappointment for such a brilliant premise. And I am a fan of Maupassant and Wilkie Collins both. I agree with you on their readability. I remember being GLUED to The Woman in White and I want to read it again soon. Thanks for the comment!
Yeh, The Woman in White is a fantastic read & the cunning unraveling of the mystery should still appeal to contemporary readers who go in for criminal/thriller-type books. I think the last one I read was The Moonstone and it's on the same level- if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it :D
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